112: I’m sorry, I haven’t a clue

Menopause is a hot topic at the moment, it seems. Companies are providing training sessions on menopause awareness, and there’s lots of research going on: how it affects women’s working lives, for example, and it’s even covered in some companies’ diversity training. In the interests of equality the company I work for are offering a male menopause awareness (it’s called andropause, apparently) later in the year. Apparently there’s more to it than fast cars and Grecian 2000 – who knew??

There’s checklists of symptoms (the old hot flash isn’t the half of it), there are charities dedicated to it and it seems to be everywhere – we’ve come a long way from delicate references to ‘the change’ or ‘her time of life’. About time too, in my opinion: it’s meant that in my annual performance review this year I was able to say to my lovely line manager that I’m experiencing symptoms and at times this is affecting work, and to have this concern logged in my record. I have a doctor’s appointment booked with a female GP (though this is apparently no guarantee of understanding) to talk HRT in a couple of weeks. Whether I can actually get my hands on any HRT is another matter entirely, as there are huge supply chain issues with it and women are being sent away empty handed by pharmacists. At least (I hope) I won’t be fobbed off with anti-depressants, as I already have those and can rule that out for them.

My main symptom at the moment*, and the one that’s making work difficult, is the brain fog: the memory problems and the inability to concentrate. I find myself in the middle of a sentence with no idea how I got there or where I was planning on going next: last week, while talking to a theatre company, I found myself making a circle in the air with my finger repeatedly, but with no idea why. A quick recap with colleagues suggested I might have been talking about the design process, but this is happening with increasing frequency – it’s hard to advocate for a project if you can’t remember what it is. Some days I work like a butterfly – landing on one thing, fluttering off for a bit, coming back to it. The kids know that it can take several minutes for my mind to process something and for me to respond. Luckily the theatre company is run by women ‘of a certain age’, as they say, and they were very good about it, but I can’t count on this all the time.

If I know in advance that I’m going to be asked to speak about something in a meeting I can script it, but I am starting to dread being asked ad hoc questions as there’s no guarantee I can formulate an answer or that my brain has kept up with the conversation. Things are slightly better if I can do something with my hands in a meeting, which is much easier when the meeting is online, but not everyone is keen on me bringing my crochet project with me. I do think if Amanda Spielman, head of OFSTED and one of our trustees, can get away with knitting through important meetings and since our mission is all about creativity and skills I should definitely be allowed.

So, it’s off to the doc for a chat for me, and hopefully I’ll be a new woman – or at least a woman that can finish a sentence.

*apart from the rage that I wrote about back in week 68

So that’s it from me: it’s lunchtime, there’s a cross stitch that needs finishing, and after a 450m swim this morning I’m contemplating a nap.

See you next week!

Kirsty x

All the Colours of Darkness/ Watching the Dark – Peter Robinson

Villager – Tom Cox

Doctor Who: Eleventh Doctor Tales (Audible)

A Place of Execution – Val McDermid

68: Rage against….pretty much everything

Hot flushes, night sweats, the need to carry tweezers with you at all times, difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration….just some of the symptoms of perimenopause that people tell you about. Apparently there are 34, but I’m trying not to treat this as some kind of hormonal bingo – I mean, what the hell do you shout when you’ve ticked them all off? And do you even get a prize?

One of the symptoms they don’t tell you about is the rage. The all-consuming, completely random rage. We are not talking a ladylike ‘tsk tsk’ here, this is fury incandescent enough to power whole countries.This week, for example, some of the things I have been furious at include:

  • people who stop in the middle of the pavement
  • old ladies walking up steps
  • sellotape
  • cat litter bags that don’t open properly
  • Oyster card readers
  • bra underwires
  • people who wake me up in the middle of the night
  • cinnamon jelly beans.

And that’s the little things. That doesn’t even cover the big stuff, like 40,000 screaming people at Wembley not wearing masks (had they all been double vaccinated? Were they all tested before entering the ground? Did they have to show their vaccine passports?) Or pretty much everything the bloviating buffoons in charge of the country say, particularly on the subjects of education or post-Covid recovery. Aggressive England fans shouting that football is coming home as if some silverware is going to solve England’s problems. (I will be supporting Gareth Southgate tonight, for those of you in any doubt: I think he’s a really nice bloke, who is down to earth, honest, well-dressed, intelligent, and if the team win people might just shut up about a penalty he missed 25 years ago, the poor sod. I couldn’t care less about England winning, but I would like Southgate to win.)

They call it ‘the change’, which sounds quite gentle, but this isn’t like WonderWoman spinning around and reappearing in sparkly pants. This is more like American Werewolf in London at full moon, complete with snarling and a really bad hair day. There are definitely moments when I’d be happy to bite people, and there are definitely moments when people need to realise that these bared teeth are not a smile and that backing away slowly is their best hope.

Back in the saddle

This week my colleagues and I have been back in a school, launching our Summer of Play programme in a Bethnal Green primary school. We saw nine classes over three days, and had enormous fun – I was only there for two days, as on day three I got as far as Whitechapel and then had to turn round and come back as Thing 3’s class had to go into self-isolation.

We had two activities running simultaneously: Fran, our creative facilitator, was working on barefoot coding and I was working on design challenges using the Imagination Playground kit above. With Key Stage One we were doing timed challenges and with Key Stage Two we were designing ways to cross a river: you can see me above in a boat built by a Year Six class. What we needed that day was probably an ark, as we were delivering sessions in between rain storms!

There were some surprises across the days: Year One worked brilliantly as a team, building together and sharing really well. Years Five and Six worked well when the teams were split boys against girls, but not so well when they were mixed. Some children worked really democratically, others not so much. Some teachers pitched in and got involved, others found it hard to let go and had to be gently persuaded to let us get on with it…but it was so good to be back doing what we do best, which is engaging with learners and talking to people.

The next lot of schools isn’t till September, but over the summer we’ll be out and about at festivals and play schemes with the kit, and I can’t wait.


On Friday I attended the launch event for Craft School – Yinka’s Challenge which is a nationwide challenge from the Crafts Council to get children and teachers engaged with craft thinking and making along three themes: play, storytelling and empowerment. I love these Crafts Council CPD sessions, as they are often designed as make-alongs. I had a free ticket, but people who paid £10 got sent a ‘material play pack’ including clay, so they could join in. The brilliant Rebecca Goozee, education manager, is very keen on embodied learning and plans sessions with great makers so you can learn along with them. I always find it easier to focus if my hands are busy, as regular readers will know, so these sessions are great for me. I fixed my pile of escaping bra wires and did some cross stitch as the sessions went on.

The final session, with a ceramicist, took the form of an informal conversation between the maker and Rebecca while they made pinch pots, rather than a tutorial (as the first two sessions had been) and it was wonderful – just listening to them talk about how working with the clay made them feel, and about their own experiences in the world of making, was incredibly soothing. If I was the Crafts Council I’d be thinking seriously about a podcast series in this format!

There was also a conversation between Yinka Ilori and his secondary school art teacher and mentor, who was clearly one of those teachers who stay with you for a lifetime. A lot of conversations that day – as the majority of the attendees were craft, art and design teachers – hinged on those teachers who supported us to become what we wanted to be and who gave us the space and the confidence to discover our passions and talents. And on those teachers who didn’t….

The three themes of the challenge sit well alongside my own museum’s new mission, so I hope we’ll be able to work with the Crafts Council in a more formal way moving forwards!

I can’t share the cross stitch I was working on, as it’s a gift, but here’s the Temperature Tree update for June and early July. As you can see, June wasn’t terribly warm either – a low of 13 and one day when we hit 27 ( a pale yellow at the very top). July’s not shaping up too well either.

So that was week 68 – we’re more than halfway through 2021 according to the tree, and coasting towards the end of term in ten days or so. Same time next week!

Kirsty x

What I’ve been reading:

Guards Guards, Men At Arms, Feet of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett (these are the first five of the City Watch series: you can see a reading order here)